Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Beer fight is about politics: TTL

POLITICAL INTRIGUE Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor's efforts to register Taiwan Beer as a trademark in China has been rejected because of the state of cross-strait relations

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The effort to register the Taiwan Beer brand name as a trademark in China has been thwarted by political intrigue, a Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp (TTL, 台灣菸酒公司) official said yesterday.

"I believe there has been political interference regarding the approval of the brand name," said TTL chairman Morgan Hwang (黃營杉) at a press conference yesterday, which was called in response to a statement released by China's Taiwan Affairs Office on Wednesday.

Li Weiyi (李維一), spokesman of the Taiwan Affairs Office, said the application to register "Taiwan Beer" as a trademark violates China's trademark law, which stipulates that geographical names -- such as provinces and municipalities -- cannot be part of a trademark.

Despite Li's claim that geographical names can not be included in trademarks, there are a number of Chinese products that include geographical names, such as Tsingtao Beer (青島啤酒), in their trademarks. Tsingtao Beer is also a registered trademark in Taiwan.

Hwang said that the Taiwan Beer name has been in use since 1946, and has become a notable and distinctive brand name.

"Both sides [of the Taiwan Strait] should set aside ideology and political motivations to promote industrial and commercial exchanges," Hwang said.

The state-run company's predeccessor, the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau (菸酒公賣局) began the registration process of taiwan pichiu (台灣啤酒), or Taiwan Beer, in Beijing in 1999, before the company was corporatized and changed its name in July 2002.

The trademark registration was turned down twice.

In December 2002, TTL re-applied to register its trademark, with no result until Wednesday.

At the same time, the company also applied to register its product under another name: tai pi (台啤). Likewise, this application was rejected twice.

"The matter has not yet been finalized," Hwang said, adding that the company will continue its legal efforts to garner Beijing's approval.

Hwang also called on China to abide by the WTO's rule of "national treatment" and open its market to Taiwan Beer.

National treatment indicates that imported and locally-produced goods should be treated equally -- at least once the foreign goods have entered the market. The same should apply to foreign and domestic services and to foreign and local trademarks, copyrights and patents.

Taiwan joined the the global trade body on Jan. 1, 2002, and China's imported beer brands quickly snatched an 8.4-percent share of the market that year, while Taiwan Beer dropped to its lowest-ever market share of 74.1 percent.

With the launch of Gold Medal Taiwan Beer in April last year, TTL has regained its market presence to achieve an 80 percent slice of the market this year, while Chinese beers have dropped to 4.8 percent.

Hwang said, until last month, 156 million bottles of 13 Chinese beer brands have been imported into the nation while Taiwan Beer's plan to enter the Chinese market remains stalled.

If Taiwan Beer is allowed to hit the Chinese market, Hwang said, TTL might form strategic alliances with Chinese companies, which will allow the company access to local know-how and authorization to manufacture Taiwan Beer in China.

"We hope that Chinese people can also enjoy our internationally-renowned beer," he said.

If the proposal is turned down again, Hwang said TTL would apply for negotiations to be conducted by the Mainland Affairs Council, before filing a protest with the WTO.

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